Stronger Loving World

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004


I typed in my url really fast into the browser and accidentally wrote And look what I found!
As you might guess, I got plenty scared!

Interrupt This Broadcast

I've spent the entire weekend shut in, door closed, bottle of wellbutrin in my right hand with nothing to eat but chocolate donuts. I'm spending the weekend writing something important(top secret project), and the inspiration isn't exactly bleeding into the back of my skull in a flash of sexy white light, so I am forced to do the old fashioned procedure of thinking through my thoughts, self-interrogating my belief systems and re-attaching my ontology from the bits and pieces of what I thought were a 'self'. Maybe that's a bit overdramatic. I'd like to take this time out to unwind, unpack a little intellectual aggregration and information overload, 'data dump' as it were, and allow a few observations to fire out full clip. So, here we go:

Thought #1: Pop Music as a critical methodology. There is a Kodwo Eshun quote about the misnomers and pretentious intellectual back alleys dug out by those who wish to throw Heidegger over Afrika Bambata or give us Derridean Dylan interpretations. The music, in actuality, is meant to read the theory. I've been using this reverse mechanism of 'pop music' as a structure and trope in lots of different projects lately. In fact, I gage whether or not I like something by how much of a 'pop moment' it produces. These include: recognition, melody, a suitably idealistic medium and the creation of a parallel reality where randomness condenses into patterns. Uh, this will all make sense to you tomorrow morning. I promise.

Thought # 2. Consciousness is embedded in matter. It just is. We've heard enough critiques of the mind/body dualism to no longer believe the Cartesian bombast or Matrix-style sci fi fantasies. But the mind/matter dualism is just as ridiculous as the mind/body one. Organisms are defined by environments. Peter Carrol thinks that the fundamental logocentric discourse of Western civilization is that we are embedded in an observable quantifiable universe. He's dumb; and anyway, his brand of chaos magic leans too heavy on mathematic models and not enough on a love of sex and ridiculous costumes. THE FUNDAMENTAL LOGOCENTRIC DISCOURSE OF THE WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS THAT WE WERE NOT BORN TO HAVE WILD SEX IN RIDICULOUS COSTUMES.

Thought # 3:The tape recorder is the greatest invention since the condom.

Thought # 4 Maybe when we die, we will all turn into quantum butterflies

Thought # 5: But probably not!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Electric Light is Pure Sex

'The Electric Light is Pure Information'

There is a Mcluhan aphorism in 'Understanding Media' that I never quite grasped. I've read the book enough times to be comfortable navigating Marshall's hyperbolic one-liners, but I never quite got the meaning behind this phrase. First of all, what is "pure information"? That seems a bit specious to me. Can information be pure? Can there be incomplete information? And-if information is defined as a difference; is information without context, without juxtapositions to rub up against even really information? The term 'pure information' signifies a mythology behind the term; that it is seen as tactile, gradient, and can be potentialized to communicate faster, more expediently. Like crack.

What Mcluhan was trying to say is that the electric light compresses form and content, that boring binary of early communication theory. The light communicates both with its form and its function. When we look at the electric light, it tells us only of itself, it gives us the message of its presence. The existence of light is being communicated. This does not occur with neon lights, billboards or advertisements. These all communicate a meaning external to itself. The electric light, says Mcluhan, is both medium and message.

(Lightbulbs in coitus)

Here is the thing: I really do associate light with information. Light delivers information in many different ways. Light is revelation, it is the destruction of ignorance. Lucifer was the lightbringer, a direct medium for knowledge, illumination. Prometheus hoisted fire from the gods, hijacked information and delivered it to the secular throngs. Here light is cast upon the external environment, changing the appearance of the environment and therefore the subject. It seems like this light is always earned, or stolen, or accumulated. Then there is the other transference of light, my favorite form of light-the revelation. There is St.Paul on the road to Damascus, suddenly blinded by a flash of light. Time dissolves: Paul is engulfed in a symbolic matrix of images beamed from the future. Because Paul can not interpret this wild, nightmarish future with the context he has available to him, it becomes a symbolic matrix of lights and sounds relevant to anyone who lived 2,000 years ago. Demons, angels, beasts, horns, each multiple, each mirrored, each with an effect and a form their own. Paul's revelation is sudden, jolting. He does not,(and this may be the key term) earn it. Worse, he has no choice but to embrace it. The light reveals his new life to him, his new identity. He is even forced to change his name.

Lacking any imagination, the Biblical god deems that Paul's new name is..Saul. Should God bombard me with the nature of himself and the eventual destruction of the universe, I pray that he would not rename me Poshan.

Philip K.Dick notes an even more disturbing relationship with light. The 'pink light' that he believes is beaming information into him in his quasi-autobiographical novel VALIS is not only unwelcome, it is driving him mad. The moment it shimmers off of the gnostic 'Jesus fish' pendant of a woman at his doorstep, he recognizes the light as the source of his pain, as the external force beaming pure information into his brain. Like St.Paul, it collapses time: among the more heartbreaking descriptions in the book is Dick's belief that he is simultaneously living in the year 300AD as well as the present, that the two timeframes are overlapping and interwoven. Dick's sanity and health are hindered by the light, and it's the most he can do to rummage through theological tracts and philosophy books, looking for mythological and philosophical metaphors to evaluate his condition, centering mostly on the Nag Hammadi documents Dick's biography is one that I identify with more than most. There is something remarkably heartbreaking and heartwarming about a man who struggled, forced himself in and out of ontological tunnels, challenged himself, studied extensively, just to figure out what was going on in his head and his universe. This is a kind of intellectual dedication that turns thinkers into Thinkers. If he wasn't so obsessed with his own brain, Dick would be one of the more important intellectuals of the 20th century. The light was his curse, but in the end, he earned the relationship he developed with it.

The only co-dependent, co-operative revelation I can think of right now is also one of the most splendid and beautiful: it is the revelation by Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita that he is in fact Brahma, the God of Gods. He is the ur-god, a multiplicity. Arjuna, engaged in humble human communication with his embodied avatar, now sees the single form of Krsna as a refractive, crystallic representation of infinity. Like the hermetic axiom, the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, Krsna becomes the one that encompasses the all. Sanjaya, our humble narrator, delivers one of my favorite lines:

"If the light of a thousand suns suddenly arose in the sky, that splendour might be compared to the radiance of the Supreme Spirit"


It is no wonder that the metaphors of the Gita are used to describe nuclear fission. It's no wonder that that oft-quoted Robert Oppenheimer line, "I am become death, destroyer of worlds" is seen as so relevant. The total synaptic inundation, the flow of eternal contradictions bleeding into one another, the endless stream of visions and lights seem particularly suited to the 20th century. It's surprising that F.T. Marinetti was not quoting from the Gita, or that he declare Italy's new religion to be a new techno-Hinduism, rather than the boring scientific rationalism he sides with.

Arjuna, kneeling, humbly accepts these visions. Arjuna realizes that his friend and ally is the ur-god, the singular object of all devotion. It is light, it is information, but it is information that irrevocably re-draws the subject and its environment, until the two are inescapably intertwined.

In a way, Arjuna's revelation is cumulative, it is the end result of studying, learning, and interrogation. He is not knocked blind on the road to Damascus. He earns his information, and it changes everything he knows about how the universe works.

I would like to think that everyone in their life on some level wants to have one of these revelations. In a burst of light, in a flash of sound, through switchboards or altars, through laptops and crucifix, through telephone wires and the line of the mosque walls, through an infinite expanse of libraries, Alexandrian and Borgesian. The shock that wakes us from our dreaming. The explanation of the exterior world. The death of all we knew. To wake up, with something more, with something gracious, with an understanding and relationship between ourselves and the functions of our universe that eclipse our previous ones. Transcendence, transgression, ego dissolution, myriad, maddening, magic, magic, magick.

Monday, February 16, 2004

But it Takes a Moving Mountain Stream to Go Where the Money Brings

I caught Nathan Michel perform at the famed lower east side avant garde/experimental venue Tonic last night. Nathan is an experimental laptop musician, in what appears to be his late 20's. (You can see him-make a judgment call. Proof perfect that blogging is not journalism-I'd prefer not to give you all the facts.) He is remarkably different from most electronic composers working today, in part because he has, as I like to say, 'graduated' from the technologies he's used, a graduation which has landed him back into the most splendid, edenic, techno-pastoral playground one could hope for. There is still a nagging feeling with some laptop performers of 'gee-whiz, look what I can do'. This results in the obnoxious, trite schtick and quasi-cyberpunk aesthetics of many electronic musicians, such as Nathan's labelmates Kid 606 and Cex. Michel however has a more intimate relationship with his technology; and it feels more intelligent, evolved and relevant because he is not pretending that the music must in some way be about the technology. It feels more like a little boy who found a space suit and has rocketed into a multi-colored, day-glo, child-like galaxy of blip-radiating quarks and tonally pulsating fermions. These are Tokyo-pop landscapes drawn with gorgeous lights, smooth transistors of sound and slow electric waves to hear with the eyes. Michel opened for "Donna Summmer" a man named Jason Forrest living in Williamsburg whose moniker is intended as a kind of 'media-prank', as one reviewer says. I didn't stay for his set, because I couldn't sit through the second act, who was playing thrash-style drill-n-bass with video game sounds and goofy radio-grabbed out of context one-liners spliced in. The kind of stuff that went out of style in the 90's.

Nathan's set was actually very short, couldn't have exceeded 20 minutes. He set up his laptop, and I stared at the familiar glow of the macintosh logo on his white powerbook, and wondered if that glow would become the de-facto signifier of the wireless, palmpilot, pre-techno-singularity days that were the mid 2000's. Then I got over it. I saw Michel play once over a year ago, opening for Kid 606, (as you can imagine, no one was there to see Michel. And no one could figure out if they wanted to dance or mosh to kid 606. And yes, that performance is part of the reason I rag on Kid 606 in practically ever entry I make. Sorry.) This set was much more dominated by Nathan's voice then it was by bleeps and bloops. Whereas the crunchy melodic playground Michel presented to the audience a year ago managed to win them over, this time around michel is doing a set that is more or less all pop. His wailing children's song melodies are focused under the shimmer of his Pro-tools produced sounds; but the reminder that this is something not only cute but strange and otherworldy comes when the melodies are interrupted by glitches, by spooling sounds which suggest the sound is being rewound. The first album was cerebral music that required patience to hear the pop souflet underneath. This is a pop souflet with trapdoors and failswitches to remind us of the gelatinous, undifferentiated goop that this creature was birthed from. Like a homo sapien blitzing into a series of amino acids, bacterias and proteins, and flipping instantly back into a human mid-conversation.

(Michel's new album 'Dear Bicycle', available on Tigerbeat 6)

I got to speak to Nathan a little bit after his performance. He is studying music composition at Princeton, a pHD student on full scholarship. I assumed this was because he had a more scholarly background and influence, but he says "basically, I just don't feel like getting a real job." He essentially is allowed to spend his time creating his albums for tigerbeat 6, and the entirety of both his new record "Dear Bicycle" and his debut "ABCDef" were composed in school. I mention how strange I thought it was that "ABCDef" was the product of formal training at Princeton, and he tells me that the Professors are welcoming, flexible, and that they find his work "refreshing" because it does not revel in its own complexity. "Everyone seems to be trying to work more towards making something complex. Right now, I'm focusing on keeping it more simple." I mention that ABCDef has wild complexity underneath its toy kingdom setting, and he suggests that he is veering away from that into work that's more straightforward. What I think he was saying was that complexity for complexity's sake is the paen of computer music composition. Just check out any issue of Computer Music Journal, which includes huge academic articles including propositions to create Computational Music Representation Based on the Generative Theory of Tonal Music and the Deductive Object-Oriented Database Argh. Sometimes I can't figure out who it is that is trying to sound cute. I'm glad there are people so serious about Play, and regret that there are so many playing at serious.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


"Boy and Tom are dropping like ducks in a shooting gallery. I see a stolid farmer type lining up on Tom with a 30-30 and I shoot up from the floor just below the rib cage where the Aztecs cut int o pull the heart out. He rocks back, his eyes open and close like a doll. The gun falls from his hands."

"Twelve of those lousy macho shits died in the shoot-out. We lost one boy-a sad quiet kd named Joe had got himself up as a whore in a purple dress slit down the sides. Had his gun in a shoulder holster and it caught in his strap-on tits. Hit five times."

"And Uranus where the Uranians sit in their blue slate houses in cold blue silence..Kim wanted to explore them all....He longed for new dangers and new weapons, "for perilous seas in faery lands forlorn." For unknown drugs and pleasures, and a distant star called HOME."

Tina the Troubled Teen

Monday, February 02, 2004

Soul Shaker

I'm taking a poll: how many of you would like this blog to contain clear, concise writing about relevant issues in media and technology, and how many of you would like it to be exhorbitant and unfounded hyperbole with little to no evidence to support any of my arguments? I sometimes like writing that concentrates meaning through a poetic prism, (I mean, what else was Mcluhan doing?)but sometimes, other people really don't. So what will it be, the critic or the poet? The academic or the trickster god?